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Build Your Relationships

MEA held its Representative Assembly on May 17 and 18. Below I share with you an excerpt from my President’s Speech on Saturday afternoon.

“…This year I have had more of a chance to get out into the schools and communities than I ever have. Thanks to all of you for inviting me into your locals and sharing your love for education with me through your pride in public schools.

What have I seen that works in schools?

School cultures with lots of collaboration. Not long ago I read an article about the biggest myths about education. One of those was that competition is a motivator for educators. I don’t believe that for a minute. I believe that educators are natural sharers. We love to meet. I am not talking about meeting just to meet. I mean important gatherings that reinforce good teaching for students and sharing with colleagues as kids learn.

We get better teaching from sharing what we know about our students. We get better students by sharing what we know about teaching.

Here’s what I am talking about...We need collaborative environments where professional development is tailored for the school, the content area, the program and the individual. No more of the canned professional development from outside “experts.” We need to be demanding time to work with colleagues, time to be reflective on our practice, and time for thorough training.

And I don’t mean just for teachers. I mean Higher Ed members who need to be sharing their knowledge with colleagues. I mean ESP training in the work they do. If they are working with students with particular challenges they need training. Bus drivers need training for responses to events that they encounter—what do you do when a child has an allergic reaction on the bus, for instance? Custodians and maintenance members need to stay current on safety issues. And all these groups need the chance to talk with each other.

We have extraordinary schools in Maine and I applaud you for what you do. But we need to have the support to keep them that way. So I am encouraging you when you leave here tomorrow to go back to your districts and start organizing a base for support of your schools.

First build a base of support within your local association—whether it is statewide like higher ed and SEAM, or a tiny little local, or our retirees. Yes, you have leadership that keeps the local going, but that won’t be enough over the long haul…

Then include a few community members. Find that second-cousin-once-removed and ask her to join you for a conversation about anything school related. Maybe that person is a master gardener and can help with a school garden. Invite the elders or grandparents to a tea with your class. Have a Read Around the Community activity that gets people into the schools…These relationships build support for our schools.

And my request of you is to keep in close contact with your state Senators and Representatives. When we only contact them when we want a vote to go our way, they have no reason to listen to us. Build a relationship over a cup of coffee. If you call they will come. And get involved in the fall election. Find a candidate that believes in public education and help out. Let’s fill Augusta with strong supporters of public education Pre-K to post graduate in November…”

MEA Benefits Trust

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